Historic and Contemporary Environmental Justice Issues among Native Americans in the Gulf Coast Region of the United States

Jessica L. Liddell, Catherine E. Mckinley, Jennifer M. Lilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Settler-colonialism is founded in environmental racism, and environmental justice is foundational to all forms of decolonialization. Native American groups located in the Gulf Coast Region of the United States are particularly vulnerable to environmental justice issues such as climate change and oil spills due to their geographic location and reliance on the coastal region for economic and social resources. This study used the framework of historical oppression, resilience, and transcendence (FHORT) to explore the historic and contemporary forms of environmental injustice experienced by a Native American tribe in the Gulf Coast region of the United States. This critical ethnography analyzed a series of individual, family, and focus group semi-structured qualitative interviews with a total of 208 participants. Following the critical ethnographic method, data were interpreted through reconstructive analysis using NVivo. Findings of this study reveal the continuing impact of the BP oil spill and difficulty accessing resources following the spill, complicated by the tribe’s lack of federal recognition. Additional themes include the continuing impact of coastal erosion, historical and contemporary land loss, geographic marginalization, and concerns about a loss of tribal identity when tribal members are forced to relocate. Lack of federal tribal recognition has exacerbated all of these issues for this tribe. This study supports national findings that Native American groups experience extensive historic and contemporary environmental injustices and contextualizes these findings for a Native American tribe in the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Recognizing Native American sovereignty is key to addressing the environmental justice issues described.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalStudies in Social Justice
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • American Indian
  • Gulf Coast
  • Indigenous
  • Native American
  • climate change
  • environmental justice

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